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France still first choice for Brits buying abroad

Nia Williams

September 19, 2011

France still reigns supreme when it comes to Brits buying abroad, according to the latest overseas property ‘hot spots’ report compiled by Conti, the overseas mortgage specialist.

The country is top of the list for the third year running, with an impressive 39% share of mortgage enquiries received by the company this year.

In a defiant comeback, however, is Spain. In second place, it accounts for almost a third (31%) of enquiries received, up by 7% on last year, and by 9% since 2009. Conversely, enquiries about French mortgages are down by 4% on last year.

Portugal, accounting for 12% of enquiries, has swooped into third position for the first time, enjoying a 5% increase on last year.

A surge of enquiries during August meant that it pipped Turkey, which has taken third place for the last three years, to the post. Interest in Turkey has declined slightly as it claimed 11% of enquiries compared with 18% last year.

Clare Nessling, Conti’s operations director, said: “There’s no doubt that France offers the full package for British buyers – easy access, competitive prices, good rental returns and a stable property market. It also offers the most finance options and best available rates in Europe, and it’s this vital combination of factors which are making it so popular.

“But Spain is definitely making a comeback, experiencing a particularly busy August. This could be due to the holiday season coming to a close, with trips to Spain this summer inspiring many of us to buy our own place in the sun.”

Conti says that France is a long-time hot spot for Britons looking to invest in overseas property. Accessible, safe and familiar, it offers everything today’s buyer is looking for, including a defiantly dynamic property market. Its mortgage market is also very stable, largely due to the cautious approach adopted by its financial institutions in the past.

The country is extremely attractive to prospective investors, thanks to historically low interest rates and attractive property prices, so they’re very well placed to pick up a bargain according to Conti.

Investors looking for a bargain in Spain are in a strong position. Dramatically reduced prices and the opportunity to negotiate these down even further with some very motivated sellers mean that it’s most certainly a buyers’ market.

Mortgage availability is generally good, despite the negative headlines about the Spanish property market. Mortgage providers still have a healthy appetite for lending, with maximum loan to values still around 65-70%. Generally speaking, smaller deposits are possible in areas where house prices are more resilient, such as the Balearics, the Canary Islands, Madrid and Barcelona.

The gloom hanging over Portugal’s economy doesn’t seem to have deterred British buyers, who are keen to pick up a bargain. The country may be struggling with debt and stuck with the label of one of Europe’s so-called PIGS, but it has managed to escape the type of property crash experienced by Spain, due to its tighter lending conditions and stricter planning laws which have helped to prevent over-development. Lending is more restricted but this should continue to improve according to Conti.


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